Pharaoh's Way or the Way of YHWH? (God as the Just Judge)

Pharaoh's Way or the Way of YHWH? (God as the Just Judge) February 24, 2011

Elmer Martens begins his discussion of the cult practices of Israel with Passover. Such an annual festival was explained with great detail, but the theology of such is left unattended (48). He expands his exploration of a theology of sacrifice by noting that ‘substitution’ as commonly understood is not the focal point as many assume (61-63). Rather, sacrifices point to ongoing deliverances as blessing from YHWH (64).

Walter Brueggemann notes a God who is “sovereign in relationship” rather than being distant (85ff). This sovereignty is such that YHWH’s grace and mercy have been identified with a particular people, Israel – who were rescued from slavery in Egypt (Passover). YHWH’s fidelity with their suffering is given as a function of sovereignty and enfleshed through open-ended engagement with this people (86-88).

The image of Judge aids in the above issues insofar as the cult is a reminder of continued covenant blessing and the “sovereignty in relationship” is an indication of YHWH’s chosen fidelity with Israel. A judge invites a system of justice: either the pharaonic or covenantal (104ff). Pharaoh’s justice is oppressive slavery and economic hierarchy. YHWH’s justice is egalitarian, always in fidelity with the vulnerable. Israel was liberated into true justice, only to eventually turn from YHWH’s sovereign design by imposing “forced labor” for the construction of the Temple. Liberated slaves created a social hierarchy that resembles the Pharaoh-Judge rather than YHWH-Judge (105). Israel walked away from the blessing of cult and relationship with their just Judge. Throughout the OT YHWH would “hear the cry” then “liberate” after his protection had been lifted for choosing Pharaoh’s way.

1) What parallels does this contrast-system of the Judge YHWH have to our call in Kingdom politics today?

2) How do we deal with the prescriptions for slaves in the Law, given Brueggemann’s reading of the two systems?



Brueggemann, Walter. Old Testament Theology: An Introduction. Nashville: Abingdon, 2008.
Martens, Elmer A. God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology. N. Richland Hills: BIBAL, 1998.

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